Also in this letter:
■ How BharatPe’s Ashneer Grover is tapping Gen Z
■ Udaan aims to go public by May 2023, says CEO
■ Byju’s looks to invest $200 million to boost offline play
India may draft new data bill from scratch
India may draft a completely new data protection bill, people directly aware of the matter told ET, putting aside the current version of the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019. The bill, which has been in the making for nearly five years, does not comprehensively address the needs of India’s changing technology landscape, they said.
Concerns: One of the top concerns with the current bill is that it could hurt the country’s fledgling technology and startup ecosystem, senior officials said.
The 2019 bill – drafted by a panel led by retired Supreme Court Judge BN Srikrishna – was reviewed by a Joint Committee of Parliament, which submitted its final recommendations and a revised draft bill only in November 2021.
“Since it’s a JCP draft Bill, the government can only tweak the clauses to some extent but the provisions cannot be changed completely… A better option is to bring a new Bill altogether which is aligned with the current times,” said an official cited above.
The bill was originally mooted in 2017 but there has been a “sea change in the local and global technology landscape” since then, people aware of the thinking within government circles said.
Controversial legislation: The proposed regulation has attracted sustained criticism from several stakeholders, both local and global. Among their concerns are the inclusion of non-personal data and treating social media platforms as publishers.
We reported recently that a report commissioned by the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) had expressed concern about India’s proposed data policies, specifically the exemptions that the government was seeking to grant itself under Section 35 of the bill.
The IT sector has also told the government that the broad exemptions sought by lawmakers would adversely impact the fortunes of India’s $190 billion IT-BPM industry in the European Union.
BharatPe cofounder and chief executive Ashneer Grover is building on his Shark Tank India fame to promote a parallel personality away from the business world.
How? Through memes, interviews with creators and an active presence on social media channels, including professional networking site LinkedIn and photo and video sharing platform Instagram.
We reported on February 4 that memes based on the Indian version of the American business reality show had taken over social media, turning its judges into celebrities.
Grover has found an audience who like his unfiltered and unabashed personality on Shark Tank India.
Yes, but: Unlike other sharks though, Grover’s rise to stardom has coincided with several controversies surrounding his conduct, dealings and alleged financial irregularities at BharatPe. An independent probe by firms Alvarez & Marsal and PwC is currently under way to investigate the goings-on at the fintech unicorn.
Tapping Gen Z: “No one can build a brand following faster than Gen Z,” said Gayatri Sapru, an anthropologist and researcher on the behaviour of Gen Z, or people born between 1997-2012.
In a recent interview with social media creator and investor Raj Shamani, which went viral within days of going live on February 11, Grover spoke about his journey as an entrepreneur.
The YouTube version of the interview has received over 1.3 million views, with more than 60% from those between the ages of 18 and 24, Shamani told ET.
Grover’s social media strategist: Playing a big role in Grover’s flourishing social media presence is 28-year-old Siddharth Gupta, who is officially a senior associate at BharatPe, according to his LinkedIn profile. Gupta joined BharatPe less than a year ago after a two-year stint at Barclays.
Udaan aims to go public by May 2023, says CEO
Udaan cofounders (from left) Amod Malviya, Vaibhav Gupta and Sujeet Kumar
Vaibhav Gupta, CEO of business-to-business (B2B) ecommerce firm Udaan told ET on Wednesday that the company aims to launch its initial public offering (IPO) by May 2023.
Gupta said he was fairly confident that Udaan would be ready for an IPO by the end of 2022 and that it had been improving its gross margins every quarter.
Since Udaan is a Singapore-headquartered company the company may look at listing abroad, though it is still deciding where to list.
“I feel good about the journey towards the IPO and we are targeting [it] in May next year,” he said. “I feel that on the business side, on the team side, and on the capital side, we are progressing well towards that.”
Gupta said that Udaan has made “massive improvements” in its unit economics. “We have doubled our gross margin over the past 100-120 days,” he said.
Choppy waters: The stock markets have been volatile lately and tech stocks worldwide have borne the brunt. Indian tech firms that had IPOs recently — Paytm, Zomato, Nykaa — have all seen their valuations drop to record lows.
Stock options for all employees: Udaan also said on Wednesday that it would give stock options to all its 4,600 employees, and that they can now vest stocks every quarter, instead of having to wait at least a year. All future Esop allocations at Udaan will also vest every quarter, the company said. Last year, PhonePe also announced that it had allotted Esops to all its employees.
Tweet of the day
Byju’s looks to invest $200 million to boost offline play
Edtech unicorn Byju’s is looking to invest $200 million in offline tuition centres over the next 12-18 months to cater to students from grades 4 to 10, the company said.
Catch up quick: The company conceptualised its offline foray last year after the acquisition of tutorial chain Aakash Education Services for an estimated cash-and-stock deal worth $950 million. It has already launched 80 offline centres across 23 cities and is looking to increase that to 500 centres across 200 cities this year.
Byju’s, which was last valued at $21 billion, is looking to bring on board 3,000-4,000 new teachers for its tuition centres over the course of the year. Including teaching staff, Byju’s is aiming to add 10,000 individuals to run these 500 centres.
It is also targeting a base of over one million students for its offline-led learning play over the next 24 months.
Learnings from Aakash: “We have picked up from the hybrid learning model adopted by Aakash during Covid-19, and borrowed bits from how they structure their courses, customer learnings as well as how to drive student engagement in physical classrooms,” said Himanshu Bajaj, head of Byju’s Tuition Centre, who joined the company in November last year.
ETtech Done Deals
■ Healthtech startup Goqii has raised $50 million (Rs 375 crore) in a funding round led by Sumeru Ventures. The round comprised a mix of equity including preference share and debt investments. Goqii will use the proceeds to strengthen its current offerings, which include a wearable fitness tracker, an app, health store, real-time coaching, and insurance services, the company said. It will also use the funds to expand in insurance, digital therapeutics and international markets. (Disclaimer: The Economic Times is part of The Times Group.)
■ Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has participated in an $80 million funding round in Lummo, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company that helps small companies get online, much like Shopify. Based in Jakarta and Bengaluru, Lummo was formerly known as BukuKas. The extended funding, done through Bezos’ personal investment firm Bezos Expedition, comes a month after the company said it raised $80 million in a funding round led by Tiger Global and Sequoia Capital India.
■ Uniphore, a conversational automation startup, has raised $400 million in a funding round led by foreign fund NEA, March Capital and other existing and new investors at a valuation of $2.5 billion. With this round, the Chennai-headquartered company has raised a total of $610 million to date.
■ Actyv.ai, an AI-powered enterprise software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform, has raised $5 million in a funding round from Dubai-based 1Digi Investment management firm, the family office of Raghunath Subramanian, its global CEO.
■ Employee welfare insurtech startup HealthySure has raised $1.2 million in a funding round that saw participation from Campus Fund and networks like Inflection Point Venture, WeFounder Circle, Dexter Angels and HEM Angels.
WazirX cofounder denies reports that he plans to leave the firm
Nischal Shetty, CEO, Wazir X
WazirX cofounder Nischal Shetty has denied reports that he intends to “transition out” of the cryptocurrency exchange.
According to news reports, WazirX cofounders Shetty (CEO) and Siddharth Menon (COO) had assumed a passive role in the company as both have embarked on ventures other than WazirX.
“Nischal is leading both WazirX as well as Shardeum, and he intends to continue doing so,” a company spokesperson said in a statement.
While Menon announced the launch of his Web3 gaming ecosystem on Tuesday, Shetty announced his involvement in a new blockchain project called Shardeum on February 2.
In an earlier interview, Shetty had told ET that he would divide his time between the two projects, but since Shardeum was a new project, it would require more attention.
Other Top Stories By Our Reporters
Freshworks’ Girish Mathrubootham
I’m not a rockstar coder or awesome product manager, says Mathrubootham: Software-as-a-Service firm Freshworks’ CEO and founder Girish Mathrubootham on Wednesday said that he is neither an ace coder nor a terrific product manager but rather is someone who has the ability to motivate people and help them build their careers. (Read more)
India needs a new digital law, says MoS: India needs a new digital law, union minister of state for electronics and IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar said on Wednesday. The country’s two-decade-old Information Technology Act is now dated and the country needs a law that takes into account things like citizens’ right to privacy, Chandrasekhar said at Nasscom’s annual event India Leadership Forum 2022. (Read more)
Lead’s announces $3 million Esop liquidation programme: Edtech unicorn Lead School has announced a $3 million Esop (employee stock options plan) liquidation programme on the back of its recent funding round, which catapulted it into the unicorn club. The Mumbai-based firm has distributed Esops to 20% of its employees. It has in the past awarded performance Esops to reward employees for their performance. (Read more)
Global Picks We Are Reading
■ Twitter’s new CEO is taking ‘a few weeks’ of parental leave and should feel free to take even more (The Verge)
■ India’s latest ban on Chinese apps casts shadow over mainland tech firms’ global ambitions (South China Morning Post)
■ Meta CEO Zuckerberg promotes Nick Clegg to lead on policy issues (Reuters)
Today’s ETtech Morning Dispatch was curated by Zaheer Merchant in Mumbai and Judy Franko in New Delhi. Graphics and illustrations by Rahul Awasthi.